Migration Assistant Problems: When it's time to go for a complete re-installation of all software and settings

Posted on by Mike Evans

A few days ago I recounted my problems during a migration of data from a MacBook Pro to MacBook Air. After many hours stuck on "one minute remaining", Migration Assistant finally completed but told me that it had not been possible to copy some files. The main purpose of this exercise had been to do a dummy run before the arrival of a new 5K iMac. I suspected problems with Adobe Creative Cloud, which I had not uninstalled before migration, but I felt some of the blame might belong to the older computer, the Air.

Yesterday afternoon the 27-in-retinia-screened iMac arrived and the first thing I did, following my own advice, was to uninstall all the Adobe Creative Cloud apps on the old MacBook Pro and degregister. With this done, I hitched up a Thunderbolt cable to run Migration Assistant. Sadly, this turned out to be a repeat performance of the earlier attempt.

Clearly the problem has nothing to do with Adobe CC nor with the MacBook Air with which I had previously tried to synchronise. After nearly two hours of progress, MA showed the dreaded "one minute remaining" message and just stuck there. I could have waited overnight, as I recommended in the earlier article, but I decided that I should go for a complete new installation. 

Big decision

This is a big decision because it can take many hours to sort out even the most frequently used apps and settings. And, from past experience, seldom-used apps are popping up for attention throughout the following weeks. 

So far, on day two, I have clocked up nine hours working on this reinstallation and I am not there yet. The work is tedious, but it would be much more difficult, if not impossible, without the aid of applications such as 1Password and Dropbox. Fortunately, I keep all data in Dropbox, including databases and preferences wherever it is possible to do so. iCloud is also useful because it automatically looks after calendars, contacts, reminders and many applications, including Pages, Numbers and Keynote. And the App Store will automatically reinstall your previous purchases. All you have to do is log in using your passwords where necessary.

App downloads, registration

It's different with applications bought outside the App Store. I have a long list of such programs including Hazel, Omni Focus/Outliner/Presence, Text Expander, Pathfinder, Scrivener, DevonThink Pro and Moneydance. In every case it is necessary to download a trial version, register the licence (safely stored in 1Password, of course) and then set up syncing as necessary. There's nothing particularly challenging about this; it just takes time. I have had one significant problem, with DayOne, my favourite journal application, and I am working with the developers to resolve the inability to set up Dropbox syncing. This alone has taken up a couple of hours.

Right decision

On reflection, the decision to go for a re-install was the right one. It is too easy to rely slavishlty on Migration Assistant. Until this week, it has served me well over several years. However, even when it does work, there are inevitably many unwanted applications and support files that keep popping up. These problems have provided a good opportunity for a fresh start and so far it feels good to have the prospect of a completely new setup.

In the meantime, not much time for writing as I tackle this on-going installation.